Facebook is the most popular social media platform on Capitol Hill, beating out YouTube and Twitter as the preferred method of connecting with constituents and sharing views online, according to a report released today.
A majority of staffers think Facebook is an important tool for understanding constituents’ views and expressing those of their Members, according to the findings of a survey of Congressional staffers carried out by the Congressional Management Foundation, a nonprofit group dedicated to increasing efficiency on the Hill.
“Staffers say they rely most on the more tangible and verifiable forms of interaction with constituents, such as attending events in the district or state, receiving personalized messages from constituents, and holding town hall meetings,” according to the report. “However, it is clear that congressional offices are taking Members’ Facebook friends seriously.”
Seventy-four percent of senior managers and social media staffers surveyed said Facebook is somewhat or very important for communicating their Members’ views, compared with 72 percent who said the same about YouTube and 51 percent who found Twitter important for that purpose.
Sixty-four percent of the senior staffers or those tasked with social media operations said Facebook is somewhat or very important for understanding constituents’ opinions, while just 42 percent felt the same way about Twitter and 34 percent for YouTube.
“Social media has become a fairly important means for this purpose,” the report states. “However, traditional forms of communication are still their top choices to inform constituents about what the Senator or Representative is doing. When communicating online, websites and e-newsletters still reign, but social media is not too far behind.”
More than 400 Members use Facebook to communicate with constituents in an official capacity, Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said.
“The Congressional Management Foundation’s new findings underscore how Facebook has empowered Capitol Hill offices and citizens to connect in a way that is simple, personal and engaging,” he said.
Thirty-one percent of staffers feel their offices spend too little time on Facebook and Twitter, according to the survey, carried out October through December.
Congressional Management Foundation President and CEO Brad Fitch said Facebook is so popular in the Capitol because it is also popular in Members’ districts.
“Members of Congress are following the popularity of Facebook the way the rest of the world is,” he said. “They’re going where the people are.”
He added that since the survey was conducted, Twitter has become more popular on the Hill and could perhaps challenge Facebook’s popularity soon.
Nick Schaper, digital strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a former digital media director for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), said Twitter and Facebook should not be an either/or proposition.
“Both have unique strengths and have managed to ingrain themselves into not just political communications but governing itself,” he said.
Though the survey was conducted before the social-media-driven scandals that ended the careers of former New York Reps. Chris Lee (R) and Anthony Weiner (D), 55 percent of staffers answered that social media offers offices more benefits than risks.
At noon, Fitch will appear on a webcast on Facebook DC Live to take questions from Facebook users about the report.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.